Low vision devices

There are many low vision devices to help you use your remaining sight more effectively, thereby enabling you to continue reading and participating in other hobbies and activities or, most importantly for those still working, remain in your job. These low vision devices, ranging from simple to complex depending on your individual needs, include:

Telescopic lenses, either hand-held or attached to eyeglasses help you see distant objects more clearly.

Magnifying lenses or special eyeglasses increase print size and improve your ability to read.

Absorptive lenses regulate the amount of light transmitted through to the eye, eliminate harmful sunrays, reduce glare, increase contrast, and help with the transition between light and dark surroundings. Often worn over prescription glasses, these lenses can increase both comfort and safety.

Closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) magnify print and your own handwriting. They consist of a camera and a screen monitor. An object is placed under the camera, magnified (some provide up to 40 times magnification), and displayed on the monitor. This is an excellent way to read labels on prescriptions, read the newspaper, or write cheques.

Computers with large screens and special screen reading software enlarge graphics and speak the text from the screen. In addition, e-mail is an easier way of keeping in touch with family and friends than a handwritten letter. Also, more people are online than ever before and use the Internet to search for recipes, maps, and other information that can be enlarged on the screen.

Speech recognition software allows your computer to understand your spoken commands. Speech synthesizers can also permit your computer to talk back.

Daily living aids that can be bought without prescription such as low vision or talking clocks, large print push button phones, magnified makeup mirrors, writing guides and bold-lined paper also help you to function independently.

In addition, Talking Books, Magazines and Newspapers as well as audio description for TV programs and films ensure that you can continue to enjoy literature, access news and an ever growing variety of films and TV programs.

However, bigger is not necessarily better; higher power magnifiers generally have smaller fields. For many people, changes in lighting may be a greater factor than magnification. The choice of devices depends on the activity, and instruction is essential to ensure that they are used effectively and successfully. A low vision specialist can help you find the low vision devices that are best for you. In most countries there are also a number of organizations that offer catalogues and assistance. If visual impairment organizations in your country are members of the AMD Alliance International you will find their contact addresses in the “Region by Region” section of this site.

Adjusting to Low-Vision Devices

Patience is the key word when it comes to adjusting to low vision devices. It takes time and practice to master the use of any new piece of equipment. Yet it is essential for a low vision device to be used properly to maximize its effectiveness.

In some countries the importance of training in the use of low vision devices is not sufficiently recognized. If you have been prescribed a low vision device, insist on being trained in its use, and if you find it hard to use after a while, get advice on being referred back to a low vision specialist for a new needs assessments. Your needs may have changed, perhaps because you have decided to take up a new hobby or because your vision has deteriorated further. Low vision rehabilitation is an ongoing process so the device you were given when you were first diagnosed with AMD may no longer be adequate.